#50 | Wildflowers, Squash Blossoms, and Occasions
Mushrooms are not the only forest food thriving lately. Over the past few weeks, our forays into the Sandias and Sangre de Cristos have sparkled with all kinds of blooms, from fireweed and asters and dazzling towers of thistle to fields of lupine and mountain bluebells. Mountain bluebells (Mertensia ciliata), it turns out, are among those wildflowers edible to humans, as are dandelions (although we’re more well versed in dining on the exquisitely bitter leaves and drinking tea made from the roots). But for once we were thinking of food from the perspective of beings other than ourselves—namely, the winged ones whose dainty dining practices are the stuff ecosystems are built from.
The monarch is now officially endangered, and one oft-cited way to support the intrepid migrator is by planting milkweed—the only food monarch caterpillars eat. But grown-up monarchs dine on native pollen as happily as painted ladies, swallowtails, and small whites do, so planting native flowers can also help. (Supporting growers who don’t spray, and avoiding fruits and veggies grown by the ones who do, is another way to extend consideration to local and traveling pollinators.)
According to the ABQ Backyard Refuge Program Introductory Resource Guide, “if you have a sunny spot in your yard, sunflowers are a great way to start building your backyard refuge.” (Is there anyone with a yard in New Mexico who doesn’t have a sunny spot?) Not only can you watch honeybees rollicking in their pollen at summer’s peak, but you can also leave the dried flowers on the stem to provide seeds and cover for birds in autumn and winter.
Speaking of sunflowers, the second annual Pecos Sunflower Festival is happening in Santa Rosa, September 9–11.
Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, which was involved in producing the backyard refuge resource guide, is hosting a tenth birthday party, including a grand opening of their Albuquerque visitor center, on Saturday, September 10. It’s probably too late to join in for today’s planting party, but they’re also taking volunteers for a pre-party clean-up on August 27.
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Like the storm clouds forming from the giant cumulus clouds above us as we dined at SkyFire, our plate of squash blossoms arrived with a pleasant surprise. Charcoal tempura dressed the delicate flowers stuffed with goat cheese and poblano peppers, which rested on honey-drizzled popcorn. The striking presentation met our tastebuds’ expectations and more as we sipped on a Mezcalito with Joven mezcal, smoked pecan, orange peel, and lime—a perfect pairing under the summer skies at Bishop’s Lodge.
Entrances & Exits
In Albuquerque, another Nob Hill opening: beekeeper Casey Bower, formerly of the Artichoke Cafe and Marcello Chophouse, is cheffing at Central Bodega. The space is bistro. The menu is enticing.
Also in Albuquerque, beloved vegan eatery Vegos has expanded their hours; they’re now open for lunch and dinner, from 11 to 8.
And in case you missed it, Katrina Ice Cream shop is one of two newer paleta and ice cream shops in downtown Albuquerque. Candolin Cook offers intel on these and other winning paletas in the Duke City in the first edition of The Bite: Stories.
Word is that Fred’s Socorro Chile Stand will be opening in Santa Fe, near Jimmy John’s and Agapao Coffee Shop, the third week of August. We’re not saying they’re the best, but they are grown in Socorro. As for Rosales Produce, which sells Lemitar chiles in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, they haven’t advertised an opening date yet.
Today is round three of the New Mexico Brewers Guild IPA Challenge. Sixteen beers will compete at Tin Can Alley in Albuquerque—including an IPA from Second Street Brewing, who won third place in round one even though the wrong keg of the wrong IPA was tapped. Oops. We’ve messed up on a few blind tastings too.
In wine, Arroyo Vino in Santa Fe is pouring more than a hundred wines for their big tasting on August 20. And there still look to be some tickets available for at least a few seminars and things at Santa Fe Wine and Chile Fiesta, September 21–25.
In more butterfly news, the Gila River Festival, September 22–25, will offer field trips focused on topics including local pollinators, butterflies of the Gila, and farming with the wild. Want to join the investigation into human relationships with this special river but can’t make it in person? Attend a virtual talk instead.
Not least, tickets for the Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown have officially sold out. The final contenders are Luminaria, Yo Mama’s Grill, Pajarito Brewpub & Grill, El Roi Cafe, Mesa Provisions, Tikka Spice, Turtle Mountain Brewing, and Upscale Burgers and Shakes.
“Abuelo was a good man . . . a good man who liked good things, like horses, firewood, prayer, and butterflies.” Rigoberto González weaves together his own migration and the destruction done to his homeland in this stunning essay on the return of the monarch. It first appeared in Contra Viento in 2019, and is one of the pieces selected for the journal’s print anthology, coming out August 15.
From the edible New Mexico archives: a story that features the transformation of an erstwhile dairy farm into Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, now celebrating its tenth anniversary.